Glue Networks Changes the Automation Game

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Clare Boothe Luce


According to a recently published survey by Cisco Systems, Inc., IT organizations spend 67% of their budgets on operational expense, and consume 80% of their time in the process. That is a staggering amount of time and money spent on simply managing the technology infrastructure of an enterprise. It comes as no surprise, then, that so many people are focused on reducing those numbers, and on increasing time-to value of new technology in the process.


Glue Networks is one of the companies trying to solve this problem by bringing automation to the network. Jeff Gray, CEO of Glue Networks, claims that they have built the “first model driven, multi-vendor, software defined network, orchestration platform that allows organizations to control their networks in a new way.” That’s a lot of words, and a bold claim, to be certain, but there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, and claims are easy to make. Proving them out is more difficult.


One of the challenges in today’s networks, particularly when speaking about automation, is the wide variety of products, platforms, hardware, circuits, etc., that exist and need to be controlled. If I want to make a change in my QoS policy across a specific path in my network, for instance, I may have to touch several brands of gear, as well as several different models within one vendor’s product line. Automating any kind of task, let alone a complex change, has historically been extremely difficult. Even with great scripting, it’s difficult to make changes everywhere at once.


Glue has taken a unique approach to this problem by creating data-driven models based on intent. In other words, their Glueware Control platform looks at what the intent of the operator is in requesting a change. You’re operating at a higher level of abstraction from the raw gear to be changed, and letting the control platform figure out how to execute the changes needed in order to fulfil your intent. You tell the system what hardware you have, and it uses its knowledge of that hardware to execute changes.


Whenever you abstract another layer above a hardware change, you rely more and more on the accuracy of your models and formulas to tell the hardware what needs to happen. If your automation engine can only talk to three models of switches, it is not going to be spectacularly useful. Currently the Glueware Control platform comes with models for 13 different multi-vendor packages and operating systems, with many more on the way. These are the recipes for how the system talks to your gear, so more is always better. The current goal, according to Gray, is to release a new vendor package every three weeks.


Glue also announced the release of the Glueware Community, which is what they’re calling their user-driven, online, ecosystem for collaborating with fellow users. Here is where a robust community of users exchanges recipes and formulas that they have written, which may not be something that Glue has released themselves. In other words, maybe you have a somewhat rare device that few people have, and no one has written a model for it yet. You wrote a model (there are plenty of examples and instructions on the community site) to support your unique device, put it into the community repository, and now other users can benefit from your solution. This is quite a good way to both encourage community participation, and to rapidly increase adoption by growing the models and formulas repository in leaps and bounds.


Responding to customers, Glue has also taken their traditionally cloud-based platform and extended it into an on-premises solution, saying that many customers needed a “behind the firewall” solution. They have also expanded from a purely WAN-based solution, into both LAN and datacenter environments, extending their usefulness across the whole of the enterprise, rather than simply running as a point solution.


Another feature that is extremely promising is the ability for the platform to dynamically create models, based on your gear, in a brownfield environment. You can install this product, and based on what it knows, it will model your network devices and pull them into the system. This shortens the time to value equation by allowing users to immediately derive value from the product, something which helps to prevent an expensive purchase from becoming shelf-ware.


All in all, I’d say that Glue has made great strides in this release, and definitely is at the forefront of vendors providing solutions to one of the most pressing issues of the day. While many other products and solutions purport to solve the automation problem, reducing operational expenses and staff utilization, far too many require large investments in what are ultimately non-vendor agnostic ecosystems. These latter systems tend to move the problem from OPEX to CAPEX, while introducing tremendous amounts of complexity. Glue offers a solution that is both simple and powerful, and should definitely be something you take a look at implementing.


For more information on the platform, how it works, and what problems it solves, take a look at this presentation by Olivier Huynh Van, CTO and Co-founder of Glue Networks:



Cisco Live 2016 Wrap-up

Cisco Live Sign

The 2016 Cisco Live convention has just wrapped up, and I felt I should write a post-convention article as my own cathartic way of sending it out with a bow on top. It’s taken me a few days to gather my thoughts this time, as the convention was held in Las Vegas. While the adage that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas may or may not be true, the hangovers and weariness certainly follow you home, and certainly slow down the writing.


This year, the conference was held inside the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, and though the convention center is huge, we managed to fill it. In fact, as is the way every year, there are increasing numbers of people attending, with this year hitting around the 30,000 mark. Believe me, you could feel the crush of people. Walking in and out of keynotes, heading to lunch, and a few other times, it seemed like 5pm on the freeways in Los Angeles—as in, can’t get there from here. The staff at Cisco, and the staff at Mandalay Bay are very professional, so while the numbers of people may have been prohibitive at first blush, everything worked well, and we all were able to get where we were going, eventually. I do wonder what the average partygoer in Vegas thought being constantly surrounded by massive amounts of people wearing badges with varying levels of flair—most likely very bemused.


On another note, I have to say that the check-in process this year was by far the best I have experienced at any convention I have been to. While my case is no doubt an anomaly due to checking in at an odd time, I was very happy that the entire process took less than 5 minutes. Because Cisco moved to a pre-registration setup, where you checked in ahead of time and received a QR code, the process was significantly sped up. I walked up to the front, they scanned the code from my email, verified identity, and handed me my badge. Everyone I spoke to during the week had a similar experience, and agreed that registration this year was stellar.


I cannot comment on any of the sessions directly, as I did not attend any, though anecdotally I heard that they were as impressive and insightful as always. I came on a social pass this year, primarily because I had so many commitments that I knew I would likely not have time for any sessions. Cisco brings out their best speakers, subject matter experts, and customers every year, and this year was no different. There were many panels on a range of subjects, short two-hour sessions focusing on a given technology or product, and half or full day “techtorials” where a very granular, largely hands-on, subject was explored.


This year also saw the return of the very popular “hackathon,” which draws teams of programmers into the convention early—it begins on Saturday—for a 24-hour contest of coding chops. The contestants are given a subject (this year it was on preventing the declining bee population,) and told to contribute their best solution to the problem. The winners receive a monetary prize, and their solution is displayed for attendees to view. This event continues to grow, and with the movement of software coding into the realm of network engineering, I am confident it will grow even bigger next year.


There are always a lot of ancillary events at the conference, and as a Tech Field Day delegate, I am privileged to have been involved with the Tech Field Day Extra events this year. This is always a great place to see newly announced and emerging technologies, ask a lot of questions, and report back out to the community at large. It is something I am always grateful to be a part of, and it provides a valuable service to both the presenters and the viewers of the live stream or recorded videos. This year we heard from Opengear, Glue Networks, Veeam, and Cisco. I will be writing more on that later, so stay tuned for a series of articles recapping those presentations.


All in all, there are too many things that go on during the week for me to adequately describe in one blog post. I see great friends I only see once or twice a year, I met new friends, and I even sat in on a couple of live podcasts—one in which I was made to participate. There were many, many late nights, along with the predictable slow mornings, but it is always worth it nevertheless. Cisco Live is a conference I haven’t missed in seven plus years, and one I will not miss at any point in the future. If you attended this year, you know what I mean, and if you did not attend, make it a point to do so next year. You will not be disappointed. Just to make it easy, here’s the upcoming schedule:

  • Las Vegas, June 26 – 29, 2017
  • Orlando, June 10 – 14, 2018
  • San Diego, June 9 – 13, 2019
  • Las Vegas, May 31 – June 4, 2020
  • Las Vegas, June 6 – 10, 2021
  • Orlando, June 12 – 16, 2022


Also, check out a friend of mine’s blog on this year’s event, complete with pictures. She did what I failed to do this year, which is to capture many pictures of the event.

802Tophat_2016-Jul-13 cantechit_2016-Jul-12 IMG_20160714_205208 Cisco Live Closing Picture


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